My Inner Mystic

reflections and insight into my healing, transformation, and journey of the heart <3

Body Talk

Our bodies talk to us all the time.  Migraines, tight muscles, irritable digestive system, elevated blood pressure, insomnia, panic attack, chronic pain.

Our bodies tell us exactly what we need to know, but do we listen?  Do we hear the messages or do we choose to ignore what our bodies are telling us?  And if we hear the messages, do we understand?

My own body has been talking to me a lot lately, specifically my calf muscle in my right leg.  The muscle gives me lots of feedback when I walk and in yoga poses.  I hear the muscle through sensation – tightness, contraction, a funny feeling.  If I draw my awareness to the muscle and I listen closely, I can hear the fatigue.  My calf muscle is saying, “too much” and “stop, I’m afraid you’re going to hurt me.”  Most importantly, the muscle is saying, “I need some rest” and “please help me.”

My “body talk” is not a new thing.  There have been significant sensations and increasingly problematic issues in my right hip and leg for almost three years.  I have felt the sensations in different places at different times – inside my right hip, over the iliac crest, from the base of my sit bone down the outer edge of my right thigh, outside the greater trochanter, in my buttock, and now in my very chatty calf muscle.  As I move deeper into my mind-body journey, my insights and understanding of what is going on inside my body deepen as well.

Nearly three years ago when my relationship ended, and by ended, I mean exploded, I felt the impact of the explosion in my right hip.  Sometime within the first week or so after the ka-boom, that heart shattering, life altering moment, so powerful, forever changing the landscape of my life and my heart, I remember a feeling of tightness deep inside my right hip.  At the time, I remember thinking the tightness must have been from all the crying and sobbing I was doing curled up in the fetal position.  I sobbed with every muscle in my body and when I sobbed, my whole body contracted forward into itself.   A few months after the ka-boom, I recall standing in my kitchen contemplating the persistent dull pain in my hip.  I remember thinking that when the pain in my heart lessened, when the brick that was sitting on top of my heart began to lift, when the dark cloud of grief began to dissipate, then the pain in my hip would go away.

Many months after the ka-boom, the pressure on my heart began to lift and the tight feeling in my right hip lessened, but I started to feel sensations in other areas – a tender, achy feeling over my iliac crest while lying in bed, an occasional crankiness in my TFL when I sat for long periods of time, a tight feeling running from my sit bone down the outer edge of my right thigh while hiking, a tightness outside my greater trochanter, also felt when hiking.  These sensations weren’t inhibiting me, my legs still felt strong, so I kept going, I kept doing.

Eventually sensation landed in my right buttock.  I noticed the sensation in yoga.  My gluteal muscles felt kind of cranky and tight.  One of my yoga teachers introduced me to dukkha, the Sanskrit word for suffering.  During our practice she invited us to scan our bodies and meditate on places where we experienced dukkha, or suffering.  Where did we feel congestion or pain in our bodies?  I identified with this word.  I incorporated this word into my vocabulary and started joking around that I had dukkha trapped in my ass.

A little over a year ago, I developed a real pain in my ass, a pain I called “screaming ass pain.”  Every time I took a step and pushed off with my right foot I felt pain in my buttock.  In my mind’s eye, the pain was like a flashing red light.  I turned to one of my yoga teachers, and very talented massage therapist, for treatment.  She introduced me to my IT band, my TFL, and my hip adductors.  She worked with me for a few months and whatever she did turned off the screaming ass pain.  I no longer felt inhibited.  I had a very active summer.  I felt strong.  I still noticed that my right buttock felt cranky in leg balancing poses, especially half moon pose, but there was no screaming, so I kept going and doing.

Last November, the sensation surfaced in my right calf, the inner gastroc to be exact.  I first noticed the sensation, a tight feeling, while hiking.  The sensation of tightness and soreness persisted in yoga classes.  The muscle started hurting when I walked.  I noticed and observed, but I didn’t listen.  One day in yoga class, the talking got pretty loud, but I still didn’t listen.  I kept doing.  The next day my muscle hurt so much I could barely walk.  I was certainly listening now and I really heard when my calf muscle shouted, when I felt a jolt in the muscle, a sudden contraction.  I have since learned that when a muscle tightens or contracts, it is protecting itself.

The recent chattiness in my calf muscle has brought the bigger issues to the surface.  The problem, the dukkha, is in my ass, right where my body was telling me the problem was when I had the screaming ass pain one year ago.  My body was saying, “right here, the problem is right HERE, do you hear?”  Reflecting back, I marvel at my body’s wisdom and ability to communicate.  But sometimes it takes a while for it all to click for us.  And sometimes we need the professional help of a physical therapist to help us unravel the mysteries of our bodies.

The gluteus medius on my right side is very weak.  When I walk, my right hip and femur drift to the right and the force of my step is absorbed in my calf muscle.  In standing yoga poses, my calf muscle and overeager TFL are doing the work that my gluteus medius should be doing and is now learning to do.  (I know my TFL is overeager because it burns long after use.)  These past weeks my energy has been focused on strengthening my gluteus medius to bring my right hip and leg back into alignment.  Yoga enthusiasts will appreciate this:  I just figured out how to do outer spiral, how to laterally rotate my femur bone!  I have been going around singing the praises of the gluteal muscles, sharing my revelation.  I am a butt evangelist!  I am here to spread the good news across the land:  every yogi should learn how to use their butt!

How did I develop a problem in my ass?  It all started in my right hip after the ka-boom, with the tightness that lasted for months.  I had an “ah-hah” moment early this year when I learned that the iliopsoas muscle, which runs from the base of the spine deep into the hip and connects to the leg, is a fight or flight muscle and that this muscle contracts when we perceive danger, are threatened, or are under attack.  Much the same way an animal curls up when in danger or attacked, humans also contract to protect themselves.  Our instinct is to protect our vital internal organs, our reproductive center, our core, our life force, the place from which life flows and is born.

The emotional trauma I endured was just that, an attack to my core self, to my life force.  My body perceived danger and responded by contracting and protecting itself.  However, my iliopsoas muscle stayed in a contracted, protective mode for too long and became depleted of energy and lost its ability to perform and stabilize my hip and leg, so other muscles started to step up and do the work that the iliopsoas could no longer do.  And so a ripple effect occurred in my body and a series of muscle imbalances developed in my right hip and leg.  When one muscle became tired, fatigued, and depleted, it stopped working efficiently (most notably my gluteus medius) and another muscle had to step up to do the job and another and another.

In order for a body to fully heal, it has to shake out and release trauma and the residual tension the body holds.  Animals have this ability, but humans, during our process of evolution as an intellectual species, have lost our primitive ability to discharge and release trauma.  I am keenly aware of the tension in my body and every day I drop deeper below the surface of my body, into the vastness of my “inner-verse” to explore the chronic tension, to unravel its mysteries, to uncover the secrets that will help me to shake out and release the trauma that is held my body.

My body, in its infinite wisdom, is shaking out and releasing the trauma on its own.  My gluteus medius is so weak that when I finally find it and use it during my PT exercises (clam shells, side lying leg lifts, single leg squats), my leg literally shakes.  I become so exhausted from my efforts that I cry.  I cry because I feel a deep pain being released from my body.  I cry for my body.  I cry for my self.

How did I learn all (or much) of this?  It’s amazing what we hear when we slow down, pause, and listen to our bodies talk.


15 responses to “Body Talk

  1. Basia May 30, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    Your wisdom deepens! As does your sense of humor 🙂

  2. thebalancedsoul May 31, 2012 at 6:40 am

    Reblogged this on The Balanced Soul and commented:
    This is a wonderful reflection, Dear Readers…on healing process and listening In. I hope you can use this as a tool to start listening more closely to Your Own Process and Body. Sensation is such a Deep Blessing!

    • myinnermystic May 31, 2012 at 11:29 am

      Thank you! I am deeply honored that you felt moved to share this piece with your readers and for affirming the power of listening. With gratitude, My Inner Mystic.

  3. Shelly May 31, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    Our bodies are amazing instruments…thank you for your story. It will help me tune into my own discomforts…
    I love how you broke down what happened and what the cause was and why the body reacts the way it does. I have heard that crying is good because it allows the pain to be released. I want to be more in tune with that myself. I became aware just this week with my therapist that I bypass feeling the difficult emotions. Oh, what we do to ourselves for protection that in the long run harm because we don’t listen.
    Thank you!

    • myinnermystic May 31, 2012 at 11:52 pm

      Hi Shelly ~ Thank you reading and for taking the time to share your thoughts. I’m a pretty good crier (I write about that in “Storms”), but I know what you are talking about…I too am good at by-passing feeling and avoiding going to a painful place. It might be that the body (or the ego) is not ready to bring that stuff to the surface. It’s hard work to revisit pain. Best wishes to you on your journey of being mindful and listening.

  4. Pingback: On feeling… « onbeingmindful

  5. Dave Lister June 1, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    Once again, I’m humbled by your ability to link the philosophical with the physical, and to do it with such humor! Although I’ve suffered from chronic pain for many years and always known how stress is linked to it, you encourage me to understand this on a much deeper level.

    • myinnermystic June 1, 2012 at 6:31 pm

      Thank you, Mr. Lister. I have certainly had my days of feeling broken, but the more I learn and the deeper I move below the surface and begin to unravel the mysteries, the more I feel empowered. Our bodies are incredibly intelligent…if we can just trust our bodies, they will reveal to us everything we need to know to attain health and healing.

  6. KT June 2, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Great post! It’s clear you’ve learned a ton about how the body works and you translate it well for the lay person. 🙂

  7. Wendy Zake June 3, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Great Post,
    I want to Thank Balanced Soul for re-posting. I would also like to share this article. I have suffered from this exact same thing for years.

    It’s hard to say when it started. During my divorce, my body actually ate about 50 percent of the muscle in my right calf. The crying, the stress,my hair fell out, I lost 85% of waist length hair. It took several years for my hair to start growing again, my right leg is still skinnier than then left. But I still have the pains in my hip that run down my leg, with cramping in my feet and sometimes on both side.

    I believed due to being a massage therapist for over 10 years was the cause, but I started that after the divorce and would get regular massage to help alleviate the pain. It has just been a pain that is always there. I just keep going, skiing,hiking, scuba diving…everything I have always done with no Dr’s….no MRI, no Meds……

    Yoga has helped in the past and now I am treating again just as you explained. I have an elevated cushion that I can lean back on to ease the stress to my back and I just figured out how to do outer spiral, how to laterally rotate my femur bone! This is making a huge difference……It hurts like hell……but it releases and my muscles down my legs and feet start to twitch, I know this right. I can move my hip without the pain. Thanks so much, Wendy

    • myinnermystic June 3, 2012 at 9:44 pm

      Wow! Thank you so much for sharing your story and yes, if you want to “re-blog” this post, please do so.

      I hear you on so many levels. I too feel the twitches in the muscles I am waking back up and know that the nerves are firing and new signals are being developed. PT work is not an over night fix, but I am hopeful that as I retrain weak muscles and recruit the sleepy muscles (those that got fatigued during the time of trauma and grief), that the issues in my leg will resolve themselves. I’ve been reading a lot about how trauma manifests in our bodies. I read an article by Peter Levine (he’s a trauma specialist) and he says that it is not the traumatic event (the ka-boom or the divorce or the sudden death of a loved one) that causes PTSD, but that it is the trauma that remains trapped in the body, because humans have such difficulty releasing trauma, that creates PTSD symptoms (anxiety, depression, chronic pain, fatigue, illness, etc.). The end of big relationships, and especially divorce, is very difficult. It’s like living in a war zone – constant exposure to stress and crisis and pain.

      I’ve recently discovered somatic movement. Along with PT work and yoga, I highly recommend it. Movements are *super* slow and allow the left and right sides of the body to talk to each other and re-integrate. And with the slow movement, we begin to feel the tension and learn what it feels like when we can let go and relax a muscle and in the process open up some new neural pathways, the pathways to health.

      Thank you again for sharing your story! Best wishes to you on your path to health and wellness.

  8. Neal June 5, 2012 at 8:59 am

    Nice heartfelt write-up.

    I’ve had the same thought about how we interpret muscle “tightness”. The word you used, “sensation” is probably a better word. The muscle can’t talk so I think we always interpret muscle sensation as tightness, whether we are tight or not. My psoas and glutes aren’t tight anymore, but they are often “agitated”, especially in the morning after waking up.
    The most common complaint I hear about tightness is the ubiquitous tight hamstring. Men really do often have tight hamstrings. Most women don’t, even though they think they do. Most likely they just feel some sort of neural “sensation” and interpret it as tightness. I’ve read in multiple places that the sensation could be due to overactive hamstrings picking up the slack for dormant glutes. Don’t know if there is actually evidence pointing to that, but I think it’s plausible.

    • myinnermystic June 5, 2012 at 10:42 pm

      Hi Neal. Thanks for your comments. I’ve learned a lot on my road to recovery. One of the big lessons I learned is that “stretching can be dangerous.” I mistook an agitated feeling in my ass as tightness and thought I needed to stretch it out, so I kept going to those curious sensations in my stretching. Just because there is strong sensation, it does not mean the muscle is tight or holding tension. And sometimes a feeling of holding, or contracting (this feels a lot like tightness), is the muscle protecting itself because it’s weak and and instead of stretching, it needs to be strengthened. I learned this all the hard way. I learned that it’s really important not to overstretch a weak muscle. I did just that in my efforts to “fix” my hip and leg and totally destabilized my right hip and leg. And when I started to strengthen the muscles I overstretched, was that feedback ever interesting…like rubbing sandpaper in my ass. It’s soo important for us to listen to our bodies. As a butt evangelist, I share my “tale” and my “woes” to anyone who will listen. The world will be a better place (and our bodies will be happier) if we just strengthened our butts! I suspect this won’t be the last blog post I write on this topic.

  9. Stephanie West November 11, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    Really interesting! I have a pain in my knee that originated from a hip muscle strain. I’m using yoga to try to get everything in alignment. I haven’t given any thought to the idea of emotion being involved with physical pain but I do know that when I started doing yoga many years ago it released some childhood memories that had been locked away. Amazing stuff.

    • myinnermystic November 11, 2012 at 8:58 pm

      Definitely! Thank you for sharing. Our bodies hold so much. Sometimes I think of the body as a container of history, our live experiences, and this becomes our body story. Practices like yoga enable us to do the inner explorations. So much to discover in there!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: